An officer of the English army sends me the following incident: ”A soldier was stationed at Edinburgh Castle, and one evening left his post on a pass until midnight. He had a week's pay in one pocket and the washing money earned by his wife in the other, and was on his way to the public house to have a night in gambling. His eye caught the poster outside the Tolbooth Church, announcing your meetings. The officer liked the singing, and went in just to hear one song. As he entered Mr. Moody was preaching on ' The Blood.' That had no interest for him. After the address you sang, ' Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.' He listened with deep interest to the hymn. ' Too late, too late,' was God's arrow to his soul. An officer of his regiment and I went into the inquiry-room, and among a great crowd we saw this comrade's red coat. He was in great distress. We spoke to him, holding to John 3:16.
“That night the man went home instead of to the public house, and his wife was astonished to see him so early, and sober. He laid down all the money on the table, which astonished her still more. Then he went to bed, but was in too great distress to be able to sleep. The words ' Too late, too late' rang in his ears. About two o'clock in the morning John 3:16 gleamed into his soul. He leaped from the bed, pleaded that grand promise, and Jesus received him. This was told the following morning by himself at the Castle. He held to his faith, and when the regiment left he was known throughout the camp as a man of God. The glorious Gospel with him began in song, and goes on in song."
A similar experience is related by another convert: ”It was on the 28th of December that I, like (I dare say) a great many others, went up to the Assembly Hall, out of sheer curiosity, an unconverted sinner. I heard Mr. Moody preach, and I am sorry to say I was very little affected by it. After Mr. Moody had finished his discourse, Mr. Sankey sang ' Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.' I was deeply moved by it, and when he came to the lines,
Jesus of Nazareth has passed by;'
I came to the inquiry-meeting and Mr. spoke to me, showing me plainly that I had nothing to do—Christ had done it all. I was only to believe in him. And before I left the hall that evening, by the blessing of God I was able to accept Christ as my Saviour. Upon going home I opened a Bible, and the first words that met my eye were John 3:16: ' God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.' I knew the whosoever included myself, and I rejoiced in it. I am doing so now; and, by the help of God, I hope to do so till I find myself in my Saviour's arms."
At one of our early meetings in Edinburgh an old gentleman, more than seventy years of age, threw himself down on his knees and, sobbing like a child. Said: ”I was utterly careless about my soul until last night, but I have been so unhappy since I could not sleep. I seemed to hear ringing in my ears, ' Jesus of Nazareth passeth by,' and I feel that if I am not saved now, I never shall be."
A lady traveling in the East tells of a visit she made to. the Girls' Orphanage in Nazareth, an institution established many years ago in the town where Jesus spent so many years of his early life. The Orphanage was established by a society of Christians in London. Here the lady heard the children sweetly singing: ”Jesus of Nazareth passeth by,” and she says that the children were sure the words were all meant for them.
A young naval officer attended one of our meetings in London. On being asked how he liked the address he replied: ”I did not hear it, but I did like that song, 'What means this eager, anxious throng?' He was invited to attend again, and he responded: ”Well, I enjoyed that solo, and I will go to hear the singing. ”He did so; the same song was sung again, and so moved him that he remained for the inquiry meeting. There he was saved through the mercy of God. A week later, in an accident, he was instantly killed, and so suddenly passed into the company of the redeemed.
The hymn was written during a religious revival in Newark, New Jersey, in i863-'64, where hundreds were converted. One afternoon Mr. R. G. Pardec made a very earnest address from Luke 18: 37—"They told him that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. ”Miss Emma Campbell was present, heard the address and saw how the community was stirred, and soon afterward she wrote these stanzas. The Rev. E. P. Hammond, who had conducted the revival meetings, tried the verses to the tune of' Sweet hour of prayer.'“
Later Mr. T. E. Perkins wrote the tune to which this hymn is now sung. It was one of the first favorites at our meetings in England. The printed records of the meetings of these days bear testimony that hundreds confessed to have accepted Christ during the singing of this hymn as a solo. Rev. Andrew A. Bonar —brother of Dr. Horatius Bonar, the great hymn writer—speaking of this hymn in his ”Life of James Scott, ”says,” Some of us in listening to these two messengers, the one singing, the other preaching, used to think of what is told in 2 Kings 3:15. Elisha, before beginning to prophesy, called for a minstrel, and when the camp of soldiers had been calmed and melted by harp and song, the hand of the Lord came upon the speaker. Had you been in Edinburgh during the four months when these brethren were there in 1873, you ' would have seen multitudes of all ages and stations hastening to the place of meeting, at whatever hour, any day of the week. The scene was exactly that described in the hymn, so often sung, and so much blessed,—
Which moves with busy haste along.
These wondrous gatherings day by day?
What means this strange commotion, pray?'“